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RVMC will take over imaging center

Rogue Valley Medical Center takes a bigger stake in the region's medical imaging business Wednesday when it assumes ownership of Jackson County's largest provider of mammograms.

Asante Health System, RVMC's parent company, has purchased the building at 692 Murphy Road which houses the Medford Radiological Group and the Women's Imaging Center. In recent years, the imaging center provided about two-thirds of the region's diagnostic tests for breast cancer.

Asante already owned the ground under the building, a .94-acre lot near the intersection of Murphy and Barnett roads.

The 17 radiologists who formerly owned the building will continue to read mammograms, X-rays and other diagnostic images from medical providers such as Providence Medford Medical Center and Ashland Community Hospital.

— The hospital is buying the building and the equipment inside it, said Dr. Mack Bandler, president of the radiologists' group. They're not buying the practice of radiology.

Radiologists in many communities often work together in a large group practice. Some groups own their buildings and equipment, but many do not. Bandler said the sale will allow radiologists to reduce their involvement in the business side and concentrate more on the practice of medicine.

To the public, the change will be virtually invisible, he said, noting that the telephone number for the imaging center will remain the same (773-6251).

Many of the medical technologists and office staff who formerly worked for the radiological group will now work for Asante/RVMC. As of Monday, at least 42 people who worked for the physicians had taken jobs with Asante, said Roseanne McClaren, senior vice president at RVMC. Several people who were offered jobs have declined them, and a few others have gone from full-time to part-time work.

The majority of us are going to stay pretty much in the same positions, said Linda Harrison, the clinic's imaging supervisor.

Everybody's getting used to the idea, she said. Some of us are getting pretty excited about it. We're going to be getting some new technology.

The new equipment includes a fourth mammography machine, which will allow the clinic to perform an additional 5,300 mammograms per year. The clinic also will add computer-aided diagnostic software that identifies suspicious areas in breast tissue and tells radiologists to examine those areas more carefully.

The new machine is one of two scheduled to go on line in Medford over the next few months. Providence Medford Medical Center plans to add a third mammography machine at its new breast health center, which is scheduled to open at the end of October.

The two new machines will mean women will no longer have to wait six months or more for a breast exam, said Brian Herwig, assistant administrator for professional services at Providence.

There's plenty of need, Herwig said. There's a huge market (for mammography) and the market is growing. This is not going to create excess capacity.

The Jackson County Assessor's Office put a real market value of &

36;1,382,480 on the building at 692 Murphy Road. The .94-acre lot is valued at &

36;335,000.

The purchase marks RVMC's return to mammography after a long hiatus that began in the mid-1980s, when the Medford Radiological Group first offered mammography outside the hospital.

We got out (of mammography) because we didn't have space to offer the service, said Scott Kelly, Asante's vice president for planning, marketing and business development. We're going back in now because we have the opportunity to buy the business and to develop a more comprehensive women's health center.

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492, or e-mail